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Fireplace bellows made of wood, leather, and brass and decorated with painting, turning, and carving are available in antique shops today. Bellows of some kind date several centuries back, but any bellows found today date no earlier than the 18th century and most of them were made in the 19th century. Paul Revere sold bellows made of turned wood, leather, and brass, but he probably did not make them but imported them from England. A similar pair of bellows with sides of turned wood is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Samuel McIntire, the wood carver of Salem, Massachusetts, carved bellows, and a bill dated November 6,1808, shows that Jacob Sanderson the cabinetmaker paid McIntire 24s. for carving bellows. A pair of mahogany bellows carved by Samuel McIntire is in the collection of Mrs. J. Insley Blair. The design includes a basket of flowers, swags, and a wreath of roses. In 1815 McIntire's son Samuel Field Mclntire carved bellows tops as well as cake and butter stamps, chimney pieces, eagles, and ships' heads. In 1811 there was a brush and bellows manufacturing company in Albany, New York; Charles McMurtry's patented bellows were sold in Connecticut and Massachusetts; and Eckstein & Richardson of Philadelphia made bellows in about 1820 for which they owned a patent. These were stamped "Eckstein & Richardson Patent No. 36 Philadelphia." One pair of bellows made by them had a painted landscape with a woman on one side and flowers in a basket painted on the other side. The flower-and-basket motif was typical bellows decoration. Sometimes the painting combined gold with the color and some later designs were stenciled.
Early country-type bellows had no decoration. They are of various shapes, round and rectangular, as well as the more sophisticated heart shape which is more often seen. These simple bellows combined cowhide, wood, and nailheads but did not have a brass end and also did not have the braidedor woven-leather decoration. On some bellows the brass stem and nailheads are particularly decorative, but it is the combination of materials that makes even the simplest bellows interesting. If you find a pair with painting or carving or even turned-wood decoration, you are fortunate, for although many bellows were made in America as well as in England and other countries, they have been handled carelessly and most of those found today are not in very good condition. However, bellows are interesting and worth collecting and moderate in price.